Sunday, 7 February, 2010

The Great Indian Ketchup

Semai hot machi we are. Add tomato ketchup to that and we have a new blog entry....
We Indians can take credit for many things , but do you know what has been the best offerings that have bettered the lives of many people everyday. We gave the Germans the curry in their currywurst . From mere saurkraut and wurst and burst they have a chatpata currywurst . Then take our Colonial masters , we gave them Vindaloo , Balti and Curry Madras . How their lives have been spiced everyday thanks to our masala .We dont have anything in India called a curry powder , but we have our Indian tomato ketchup. Give an Indian a bottle of tomato ketchup and they will conquer the world. They will eat the saurkraut, the sheperd´s pie , the gulash , the works.

Why do we love tomato ketchup so much ? As a child we had only one variety of tomato ketchup . It came in a nice plump bottle . We would eat the ketchup with bread, dosa , vada , cutlet with finger chips and sometimes with our plain fingers. As the ketchup would decrease in the bottle we would find new ways to pull out the last drop . Long forks , broom sticks , back scratchers would all be put to entice the last few drops to come out to a waiting samosa.
But Indians have uses for tomato ketchup that would make Mr. Heinz blush like his tomato. We add to chinese manchurian, to paneer mutter. Even send it as a kitchen tip. When ketchup is only few drops in bottle , add few drops of water, masala and pour on bread as spread and win Ms, Eves tip of the month prize.

But the ketchup lives on even after its contents. The bottles are used as water bottle , when that use is over , its used as a stand for mosquito coil , even if that has been used up we keep money plants in it. What is better in a bed room , an empty ketchup bottle with money plants hanging out. Thats what I call kitsch decor !!

Now our ketchup masters have different flavours. Imli, chilli , chatpata , no onion , yes onion etc.
So now Ketchup becomes the main dish and you add anything as a filler to get the ketchup into the tummy. I bring back bottles of ketchup when Im back. My maid cant fathom how an Indian can make ketchup and even tea so spicy .

We once had family visiting us in Europe. So we took them to a tapas bar. We had bite sized portions of every imaginable vegetable dish . But our guests looked at the food and kept a stoic composure. While we chomped away the guests hesitantly kept looking at the waiters. Then they summoned courage and asked . Can we get some chilli ketchup.
The waiter said seƱora this is fine espanis food . No ketchup good sauce.
To which the family said what kind of place no ketchup only. In India even in Pizza hut they give so much free ketchup.
And then aunty became all brave and said . Not to worry I have this pizza hut ketchup sachet and chilli flake with me .
And much to the chargin of our waiter. The fine Spanish tapas were doused in good old tomato ketchup and chilli flakes and the aunties attacked the plates viciously.
Now that we were used to the aunty brigade and their ketchup sachets we suggested we would be fine and cultured and ask for Tabasco sauce wherever we went.

So at a fine restaurant the fish comes cooked in its delicate sauce with a whiff of fennel and a hint of saffron.
We Indians are not hint variety. We liked to lay it thick like our chunky tomato ketchup.
And then we pop the question
Haben sie Tabasco o einer piquant sauce bitte?
The waiter looks at us brings the bottle and watches. We sprinkle the plate with hot drops. No hint no whiff only tabasco.
See tabasco is the hermano mayor of our tomato ketchup . We treat it with respect . While all the guests look at us ,our dead tongues ( in Tamil naaku sethu pochu da anthu naadu lai) come back to lives while the poor European feels his tongue will be taken closer to his padre nuestro .
Why o Why do we love tomato ketchup so much. The free packets at Mc Donalds never satiate our appetite we need more of our tomato fix .
Maybe ketchup is one thing that unites our country´s tongues. Punjabi samosa , Marati vada pav, Good crisp Medhu vadai , Puchkas all can be enhanced with tomato ketchup. Thats the great Indian mother tongue .
But maybe, just maybe We are like this only.
Mind it!


  1. hahahaha! outlook did a survey and said masala dosai was the national dish. but it isn't,it's our ketch up. i know 2 people who use ketchup (only maggi) to make rasam, when tomato is not handy. what do you say to that?!

  2. @ummon- maggi rasam would make rasam purists go aiyo. in a very desperate situation ketchup saves the day!

  3. well written, aruna........most certainly ketchup is the backbone of an indian meal many times..........your blog reminded me of 'repairing' a chicken dish once (which incidentally had got burnt in a pressure cooker)by using ketchup......this was in the US and the visiting american friends thought 'indian spices in a dish truly taste very good', long live tomato add to interest.......most companies when they make ketchup, they dont just use tomatoes...they use 'parangikkai' also.........

  4. @sudha thanks for passing by. I remember the old maggi ad is mein kadu nahi zara!!
    ha ha ketchup chicken must be interesting....

  5. Enjoyed it throughly.. when I was starting out managing my own kitchen I remember how often I used ketchup to enhance the taste (!! or mask the flavour!!). It worked most of the times right from bread upma to grilled sandwich..But its a fast moving A category item in most kitchens. My mom used to complain that naama veetu la tomato sauce (I think most of us still call it that :) sambhar madri selavu aagharadhu...

  6. Awesome post
    yu should get this published....!!
    We are the Ketchup Family too..any thing goes in with a dollop of tamato chaase!!

  7. @sunita thanks . I really miss the chilli ketchup when I travel
    @sstoryteller thanks. I know ketchup makes even boiled potato tasty!!

  8. Interesting post. Just yesterday, I bought a bottle of organic ketchup.When India goes head over heels on Tomato ketchup, I was wondering why I don't! Thanks.